FREE Spanish Writing Folder Tools

Are you teaching writing in Spanish? If so, and you work with kindergarten, 1st, or 2nd grade students, I’ve got a BIG freebie for you!
In this blog post, I explain how I use my Spanish writing folder tools to help my students become more independent writers. Keep reading to get all of these materials for FREE!

Are you teaching writing in Spanish? Download these FREE writing folder tools for Kindergarten, first, and second grade!

Why folders?

I know that some teachers have their students write in notebooks. For writing workshop, I prefer to use folders. Here’s why:

  • When students write stories or make books within a notebook, there’s no clearly defined beginning and end. Primary students can easily lose track of where their book starts and stops! I give my students pre-stapled booklets of lined writing paper, and they keep these in their writing folders.
  • If students need to add in a page or rearrange pages, that’s hard to do with a notebook. Using the stapled booklets allows us to add on more pages or rearrange the pages if necessary.
  • The stapled booklets more closely resemble the books students are reading. I emphasize that students are authors, so it makes sense for them to create things that look like real books.
  • When students use booklets and folders, they can take home certain pieces of writing to share with family members. This isn’t the case with writing notebooks‚ÄĒwe risk losing the entire notebook if something happens to it at home.

What type of folder is best?

I purchase plastic or sturdy cardboard folders. I want them to last. ūüôā I also usually buy them all in one color, so that students don’t confuse this folder with any other folders they may have.

I also make sure to purchase folders with prongs in the middle. You’ll see why this is important in a minute!

Inside the folder, you’ll notice that I place two stickers: a red dot, and a green dot. The “red dot” side is for work that’s finished. The “green dot” side is for work that is still in progress. This system helps students keep their folders organized!

What goes inside the folder?

In the middle of the folder, I place different tools that students can use while they’re writing. These supports encourage students to work more independently!

The writing folder tools include:

Spelling charts:

Editing checklists:

Genre checklists:

Transition word lists:

There are a few other things in the writing folder freebie for you, because I know that different grade levels and different types of writing require different tools!

How do you introduce the writing folder tools?

When we start the school year, I don’t include ANY of these tools in their folders. Students likely wouldn’t know what to do with them!

The first tool I typically introduce is an alphabet chart. I use it to show my students how I stretch out words and write them phonetically.

I say a word, isolate the first sound, look for a word that starts with that same sound on the chart, and write that letter. (By the way, this can get a little tricky when you’re teaching writing in Spanish, because kids often hear the vowel sounds before they hear other sounds, and we want them to think about the syllables. But the alphabet chart is still a helpful place to start!)

After the kids are able to help me use the chart in a whole group setting, I then place it inside their folders so that they can use it as they write.

As time goes on, I add other tools. I also sometimes remove tools that students no longer need.

Where can I get these writing folder tools?

I have these tools (and more!) for you for FREE! Click on the image below to sign up for them!

Do you have more resources for teaching writing in Spanish?

Yes! I have another blog post here: How to Support Dual Language Students with Writing

And I now have my kindergarten, first grade, and second grade writing units available in SPANISH!


Happy teaching!

Spanish Writing Mentor Texts for K-2

If you teach writing in Spanish, then you may be able to relate to the difficulties I’ve had with finding materials!

One problem I’ve had is finding mentor texts in Spanish. (Mentor texts are books that can be used to teach students about writing. We point out writing strategies that a published author has used and show students how to try these strategies in their own writing.)

After spending a good amount of time searching, I’ve found some great Spanish mentor texts, and I want to share this list with you!

Teaching writing in Spanish? Here are some lists of great mentor texts!

Photo Credits: vinnstock; Shutterstock

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are Amazon affiliate links.

Narrative Writing Mentor Texts in Spanish

These texts can be used to teach narrative writing‚ÄĒpersonal narratives, story writing, etc.

Así me siento yo (Janan Cain) Рgreat for teaching different feelings words students can use in their writing to show how they felt in a personal narrative, or how characters feel in a story

¬ŅPuedo jugar? (Mo Willems) – great for teaching dialogue through speech bubbles, problem and solution

¬°No dejes que la paloma conduzca el autob√ļs! (Mo Willems) – great for teaching students how to show character emotions through their drawings; can also be used as an opinion writing mentor text

¡Qué montón de tamales! (Gary Soto) Рgreat for teaching students to show how characters feel and describing the setting

El conejito Knuffle (Mo Willems) – great for teaching setting, character emotions, problem/solution

La asombrosa Graciela (Mary Hoffman) – great for teaching strong characters/character traits, as well as setting, problem, solution, and descriptive writing

Un d√≠a de nieve (Ezra Jack Keats) – great for teaching “small moments,” writing with details, beginning/middle/end

La silla de Pedro (Ezra Jack Keats) – not told from the 1st person perspective, but is still a good mentor text for personal narratives

Un sill√≥n para mi mam√° (Vera Williams) – great for teaching “small moments,” descriptive writing, character feelings, and story elements (characters, setting, problem, solution)

El patito feo (Luz Orihuela) – great for teaching story elements like characters, setting, problem, character feelings

I tend to use a lot of fairytales and folktales in my narrative teaching. Fortunately, many are available in Spanish, including books written originally in Spanish, which is great! El gallo de bodas (Lucia Gonzalez) is one example.

Informational Writing Mentor Texts in Spanish

A sembrar sopa de verduras (Lois Ehlert) – a simple nonfiction book that can be used to teach labeling (great for kindergarten)

Los alimentos de la granja (Nancy Dickmann) – this is a very simple nonfiction book that’s great for kindergarten

Las partes del cuerpo (Bev Schumacher) – another simple nonfiction book that can be used to teach labeling

Las rocas: Duras, blandas, lisas y √°speras (Natalie Rosinsky) – a great general nonfiction book for K-2, also includes some labels

Me pregunto por qu√© las ara√Īas tejen telas (Amanda O’Neil) – great for teaching labels and captions; can also be used to teach students to organize their nonfiction books into sections

Un h√°bitat de desierto (Bobbie Kalman) – good for teaching students how to include labels in their pictures and divide up their books into sections with headings

C√≥mo hacer slime (Lori Shores) – great for teaching “how to” writing (procedural nonfiction)

C√≥mo se hace un libro (Aliki)¬†– great for teaching “how to” writing (procedural nonfiction)

C√≥mo hacer un tornado en una botella (Lori Shores) – great for teaching “how to” writing (procedural nonfiction)

Honestly, just about any well-written nonfiction book in Spanish can be used to teach general informational writing! Look at the books you already have in your classroom and choose a variety to use with your students: books with different text features, organized in different ways, about different topics, etc.

Opinion Writing Mentor Texts in Spanish

¬°Pato!¬†¬°Conejo! (Amy Krouse Rosenthal) – this is a simple book that’s great for teaching kindergarten or 1st grade students how to give reasons for their opinions using words and pictures

La paloma necesita un ba√Īo (Mo Willems) – a great picture book that shows a character giving multiple reasons for his opinion

Huevos verdes con jamón (Dr. Seuss) Рcan be used to teach persuasive writing strategies

Clic, clac, muu: Vacas escritoras (Doreen Cronin) – great for teaching kids to include reasons in their opinion writing; can also be used to teach letter writing

Los gatos vs. los perros (Elizabeth Carney) – great for teaching comparison in opinion pieces

Oye, hormiguita (Phillip Hoose) – great for teaching kids to include reasons in their opinion writing; this one is a bit longer, so use it with 2nd grade and up or just use parts of it with younger students

Writing Lessons in Spanish

Have you been translating your writing curriculum into Spanish? I did that for several years, so I know how time-consuming that is!

If you’re looking to save time and have your student materials in SPANISH, check out my Spanish writing workshop resources below. Let me know if you have any questions!

Happy teaching!

How to Support Dual Language Students with Writing

Getting primary students to write can be quite challenging at times. If you teach students who are learning another language, it becomes even more challenging!

Before I became a literacy specialist, I was a classroom teacher. And one of my years in the classroom was spent in a two-way dual language program.

The goal of a two-way dual language program is to help students become fluent speakers, readers, and writers of two languages (let’s call them Target Language 1, T1, and Target Language 2, T2). Some of your students speak T1, but they begin the program not knowing T2. And other students speak T2, but they begin the program not knowing T1.

In my case, I had:

  • Some students who spoke Spanish at home and were learning English
  • Some students who spoke English at home and were learning Spanish

When executed well, dual language programs can be AWESOME. Students learn from each other and finish the multi-year program speaking, reading, and writing two languages. And that is truly a gift!

As you can imagine, however, teaching in a dual program has its challenges.

Regardless of whether I was teaching in English or Spanish, at least some of my students struggled with the language. So at all times, I had to provide supports and scaffolds to make content and skills accessible to all students, regardless of their L1 (first language).

Writing, in particular, was challenging.

Receptive language (understanding / reading a language) develops before productive language (speaking / writing the language). So when I asked my students to produce writing in a target language that was not their first language, they often struggled. And that’s totally understandable!

Giving a writing assignment in a dual language classroom is not as easy as putting up a prompt and telling students to take their pencils out. You have to provide supports so that students can be successful no matter what their proficiency is in the target language.

In this post, I’ll share 4 different ways that I support my students with dual language writing. Even if you don’t teach in a dual language program, please keep reading! These supports are helpful to students learning English as a second language, or for any student who struggles with language/writing.This blog post has great ideas for helping dual language learners write in the Kindergarten, first, or second grade classroom!

Photo Credits: spass, Shutterstock

1. Modeled Writing

This one might seem obvious‚ÄĒof course we want to write in front of our students, right? Modeling writing (and sharing our thinking as we do so) is SO important for all students, language learners or not.

But here are a few things to consider when you are modeling writing (or teaching writing mini-lessons) for language learners:

  • Pare down your language. It’s easy to go on and on when you teach a lesson or model writing (I’m guilty of it!). But you don’t want to create “language overload” in your students. Determine exactly what you are going to teach and what you are going to say when you teach it. Write down your main points in your lesson plan or on a sticky note, and keep it handy during the lesson. This will help you stay on track so you can be clear and succinct.
  • Model EXACTLY what you want students to do (to a T!). When there is a difference (however small) between what you model and what you expect students to do, language learners quickly become confused. To avoid this, ensure that you model precisely what you want students to work on during writing time. Use the same type of paper you want students to use. Respond to the exact same prompt that students will respond to. If you are modeling only one small component of a writing project, also show a finished version of the project so students can see what the “big picture” looks like. When you refer to an anchor chart, get up and go over to it in the classroom (or have a student get up and point to it). Little things make a big difference when you are working with language learners
  • Model how to use supports and scaffolds. In later parts of this post, I’ll share some supports and scaffolds you can use to help students write. Make sure that you model how to use these same tools‚ÄĒrepeatedly‚ÄĒduring your mini-lessons. Students need to hear your thinking and how you decide when (and how) to use these supports.

2. Word Banks

Providing key words for students both raises the quality of their writing and lowers anxiety about writing.

You can do this by writing words on the board (students can also contribute words, which is great) or providing a half-sheet to students. I ultimately decided to create writing prompts that had word banks right ON them. This way, the support was right in front of my students as they wrote. Here are two examples in Spanish and English:

This blog post has great ideas for helping dual language learners write in the Kindergarten, first, or second grade classroom!

This blog post has great ideas for helping dual language learners write in the Kindergarten, first, or second grade classroom!

These examples come from my differentiated writing prompts resources (in English and Spanish), which you can view by clicking HERE.

3. Sentence Starters or Sentence Frames

Sentence starters or sentence frames provide even more support! They can give students a really strong start with a piece of writing, as well as support with structuring a piece of writing.

If you‚Äôve read any of my other blog posts, you know that I always have students do as much as possible on their own‚ÄĒI don‚Äôt want them to become dependent on supports.

That said, language takes time and lots of practice to develop. If a student is at the stage where he can only produce a word or two, then we have to take that student where he is and help him be successful. Sentence starters or sentence frames are a great way to help students communicate ideas while lessening the cognitive load required to write complete sentences.

Here are some examples of writing prompts with built-in sentence frames:

4. Verb Conjugations

At one school where I taught, we helped students conjugate verbs with pocket chart displays. I wish I had taken a photo of it! But basically, you would have different strips and images for each form of a verb:

  • Yo voy
  • T√ļ vas
  • √Čl / ella va
  • Nosotros vamos
  • Uds. / ellos van

Although you can’t display all verbs at once, it was a great starting place for helping English speakers learn Spanish!


How do you help your dual language learners experience success during writing time? Do you have any strategies to add to this list? Please comment below‚ÄĒI’d love to hear from you!

How I Teach Beginning Phonics in Spanish

Yesterday I wrote a post about teaching phonological awareness¬†in Spanish (and how it’s a little bit different from teaching phonological awareness in English). Similarly, there are some differences between teaching phonics in Spanish and phonics in English.

In today’s post, I’ll share ideas and free materials for teaching beginning phonics in Spanish. I’ll cover letter sounds, open syllables (s√≠labas abiertas), syllables with blends (s√≠labas trabadas), and closed syllables (s√≠labas cerradas).

There are other types of phonics patterns that you’ll want to teach your students, depending upon their developmental levels (like diptongos, or diphthongs). However, I’m focusing on these¬†areas in my post¬†because¬†I’ve worked mostly with beginning readers.

How I Teach Beginning Phonics in SpanishGeneral Phonics Teaching Strategies

When I was a classroom teacher (in the primary grades), my students learned Spanish phonics primarily through a daily minilesson, small group or guided reading work, picture/word sorts, independent centers, and dictados. And, of course, they also learned it through reading and writing activities!

I’ve found it helpful to choose a scope and sequence for the year (click HERE for the Kindergarten scope and sequence I’ve used in the past). Although I differentiate and deviate from it, having a planned-out path helps keep me on track.

To introduce a new letter sound, syllable, or spelling pattern, I typically start with a minilesson. I write the letter or syllable for students, have them read it, and then have them write it in the air. We brainstorm words that contain the letter or syllable.

Next, I introduce a picture sort. I have students cut out and sort pictures into 2 or 3 columns (by beginning sound or syllable, for example), and then write each word underneath. It gives them practice with the letter or syllable in the context of real words. I also encourage students to search for additional words (with the same patterns) in books.

As time goes on, I have students begin to sort words rather than pictures. I also give different students different sorts, based upon their needs. Click HERE for a great book of Spanish word sorts.

During independent work, students continue to practice these same letter sounds, syllables, or spelling patterns. When they’re with me for guided reading or small group literacy instruction, I either reinforce those same phonics patterns¬†or work on other ones (depending upon what students need).

On Fridays, I do a dictado, where I dictate words or a sentence to students. I incorporate some words that have the same sounds and spelling patterns we’ve learned throughout the week. I have students correct their work at the end, and help them make the connection between our phonics work and the words or sentences they’ve written.

I’ve found that it’s important to always relate whatever skill you’re teaching to real reading and writing. Young readers are always so excited when they are able to read or write the type of syllable you’ve been studying in class! This also helps them understand the importance of learning the different phonics skills.

Teaching Letter Sounds

Some bilingual teachers teach the letter sounds in isolation, while others teach them in the context of syllables. Honestly, I don’t think it matters much which way you do it (as long as you move relatively quickly into teaching the syllables, because Spanish is a syllabic language).¬†My personal preference is to teach letter sounds first (without syllables), because I think it gets kids writing and reading emergent texts more quickly.

I always teach the vowel sounds first, because these sounds are the ones that kids can hear and spell most easily. For example, if you asked an emergent reader to write the word “mesa,” you might get something that looks like this: “ea.” It’s easier for students to hear (and spell) vowels as opposed to consonants. AND¬†the vowel letter names and sounds are the same, which makes them easy to remember!

After I teach students the vowels, we move on to the consonants. I like to start with the consonants m, p, s, and l, because these are “easier” consonant sounds for students to hear, say, and spell.

After that, I progress through the rest of the consonants, teaching several per week (when I was in the classroom). Again, you can access the scope and sequence I used when I taught Kinder HERE.

I’ve used the Estrellita program¬†to teach letter sounds for the last 5ish years, and I absolutely love it! There’s a chant and hand movements for each letter, as well as an alphabet chart that goes with it. Students learn the letter sounds so quickly from practicing the chant! You can check out the chant here (it’s¬†not my video – I¬†found it on YouTube!).

Even if you don’t have access to Estrellita, you can still use an alphabet chart and create a chant to go with it. Fill in your information below, and I’ll send you a free Spanish phonological awareness and phonics toolkit¬†that includes an alphabet chart (if you already downloaded the free toolkit¬†from my phonological awareness post, you don’t need to sign up again – you already have the materials):

In addition to practicing the alphabet chant once or twice daily, I also like to use picture sorts to give students practice with the letters that we’re currently studying. We practice naming the pictures as a group, and then students work independently to sort the pictures by their initial sounds. After some practice, I also ask them to write each word underneath the picture. I don’t demand¬†correct spelling – it’s just an opportunity for students to practice spelling words by listening for their¬†sounds. There are picture cards in the free Spanish phonics toolkit that you can use to create your own picture sorts. Or, try¬†the book of Spanish word sorts I use (HERE). If you find that some of your students are struggling with letter sounds, try my Spanish Letter Sounds Intervention Pack. It comes with instructions for using the materials for an¬†interactive, engaging interventions.¬†And the printable sheets require no prep!

Letter Sounds Intervention Pack Sample Page.001

One other note about teaching letter sounds – I always teach them before teaching letter names. Although I do begin to use the letter names after a couple of months, I’ve found that starting with letter sounds enables kids to begin reading and writing more quickly than does teaching them the letter names.

Teaching Open Syllables (Sílabas Abiertas)

Once students are comfortable with many of the letter sounds, we move on to open syllables with a consonant-vowel¬†pattern, like¬†ma, pe, si,¬†or¬†tu.¬† Something I learned from the Estrellita program¬†is that it can be helpful to teach students multiple syllables with a single vowel, rather than the usual¬†ma me mi mo mu pattern. For example, I teach students¬†ma, pa, sa,¬†and¬†la¬†in one week. Once I’ve taught all the s√≠labas con a, I move on to s√≠labas con e. I haven’t read any research about which way is “better” – I think just comes down to personal preference. I always try to help my students connect syllable learning to reading and writing real words. Here are some of the activities I use to¬†students open syllables and words with open syllables:

    • Picture sorts – Just like with letter sounds, I use these to give students practice with sorting and writing words that have the¬†syllables we’re studying.
    • “Touch and say” blending sheets – Sometimes students struggle with orally blending letters into syllables and syllables into words (i.e. they may read “so….pa” and say “pa” or “sapa” or “sopo” or something completely different from “sopa”). When I see this happening frequently, I give students practice with oral blending – no letters involved. Watch the video below to see how I use the “touch and say” blending sheet to have students practice blending sounds and syllables (this sheet is included in your free phonics download):

    • Breaking apart words with magnetic letters – I have students read and make words with open syllables. Having them physically break apart a word into its syllables has been very helpful in getting them to decode simple words!

Mesa broken apart into syllables

    • Escaleras de fluidez –¬†Reading in Spanish requires fast syllable processing. If students take a long time reading syllables, they may need¬†some practice in this area in order to improve their fluency, decoding, and comprehension. My Escaleras de fluidez¬†are a quick and easy way to give students more practice reading syllables. Students practice reading a syllable “ladder” until they are able to read it in a certain amount of time. They progress through different levels, starting with open syllables, then¬†words with 2 open syllables, and on up.This post has tons of ideas (and freebies) for teaching phonics in Spanish!
    • Building words with open syllables –¬†I have my students engage in different independent activities to give them practice with building and reading words with open syllables. My free phonics toolkit¬†comes with some syllable puzzles that students can use to practice word-building.

This post has tons of ideas (and freebies) for teaching phonics in Spanish!

    • Writing words with open syllables –¬†Writing is sooo good for developing phonological awareness and syllable knowledge in Spanish! My kids love using spelling¬†cards to practice writing words. They can either write the words out or spell them using magnetic letters. The cards progress in difficulty, so you can have students begin with simple words that have 2 open syllables, and then work their way on up. Click HERE for the 2 syllable word cards, and HERE for the 3 syllable word cards.


This post has tons of ideas (and freebies) for teaching phonics in Spanish!

This post has tons of ideas (and freebies) for teaching phonics in Spanish!

Teaching Syllables with Blends (Sílabas Trabadas)

Once students have mastered many open syllables, we move on to syllables and words with blends.¬†When I’m getting ready to make the transition from open syllables to syllables with blends, I start having them blend sounds orally. For example, I might say /b/ /r/ /i/, and then the kids say “bri.” I also ask them to think of words that have that syllable (like “brisa”).

I use many of the same activities to teach syllables with blends that I mentioned above (with open syllables). Picture sorts are great, as are breaking apart words with magnetic letters. My Escaleras de fluidez include practice with blends and words with blends:

This post has tons of ideas (and freebies) for teaching phonics in Spanish!

My word cards also include practice with blends (some samples of these are included in the free download, or you can get the complete set HERE.

This post has tons of ideas (and freebies) for teaching phonics in Spanish!

Teaching Closed Syllables (Sílabas Cerradas)

Next, we move on to closed syllables. There are different types of closed syllables, like “im” in “imposible” or “son” in “sonrisa.” These can be tricky when students are used to reading syllables that end in a vowel!

Not to sound like a broken record, but many of the same activities I’ve mentioned work well for teaching closed syllables! Magnetic letters are great for giving students practice with breaking up words and learning that not all syllables have 2 letters.

My Escaleras de fluidez and syllable writing cards give students practice with closed syllables, too. The free Spanish phonological awareness and phonics toolkit (sign up below) contains some sample materials from both of these products.

Final Thoughts

Although teaching phonics in Spanish is slightly different from teaching phonics in English, many of the same principles apply. You’ll want to use a defined scope and sequence, provide many opportunities for practice, and always connect phonics learning to real reading and writing.

Do you have any additional activities that you use to teach Spanish phonics? Please comment below – I’d love to hear from you!

How To Teach Phonological Awareness in Spanish

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about phonological awareness interventions for struggling readers. I described different phonological and phonemic awareness skills, and I suggested different activities for teaching these skills.

But the skills and activities were all in English. And if you teach in Spanish (like me), you might be wondering if you should teach the same phonological awareness skills to your Spanish-speaking bilingual students.

The answer? Yes and no. Students who are learning to read in Spanish benefit from developing phonological awareness skills in Spanish. And because Spanish and English are structured slightly differently, there are differences in the types of phonological awareness skills that students should practice.

In today’s post, I’ll describe different phonological awareness skills that are helpful for children who are developing Spanish literacy skills. I’ll also provide free phonological awareness activities that you can try out with your students!

This post has tons of ideas and freebies for teaching phonological awareness and phonemic awareness in Spanish!

Why should we teach phonological awareness in Spanish?

Before we dive into how to teach phonological awareness in Spanish, we have to determine if it’s worth teaching at all (spoiler alert – it is!).

Phonological awareness is an awareness of the sounds that make up spoken language.¬†When we’re talking about phonological awareness, it doesn’t have anything to do with written letters (that would be phonics).

Research has shown that for young English-speaking children, developing phonological awareness can help them learn to read and write.

Research also shows that strong phonological awareness in Spanish speaking children is correlated with success in emergent spelling (Manrique and Signorini, 1994). In other words, students who receive phonological awareness training are better able to spell words phonetically than students who do not receive the same training.

One reason for this is that Spanish has a “transparent orthography” (Gorman and Gillam, 2003). This means that there’s a strong relationship between the spoken sounds and the letters with which they’re represented. Spanish words¬†are pretty easy to spell, as opposed to English words (especially those with complex vowel spelling patterns).

It only makes sense, then, that if a child is highly aware of the spoken sounds of Spanish, it’s going to be relatively easy for her to represent those sounds with letters when she’s¬†writing¬†words.

My own, not-official research has also taught me that phonological awareness in Spanish is helpful with word reading. I’ve seen that some children are able to read syllables individually but not put them together to make words. Phonological awareness activities like oral syllable blending have been helpful in getting my students to¬†blend syllables together when reading.

Now let’s move on to some more practical and concrete stuff. ūüôā

What Spanish phonological awareness skills should we teach?

Just like in English, there seems to be a continuum of Spanish phonological awareness skills¬†(Gorman and Gillam, 2003). Some skills are easier than others. Students may progress along this continuum of skills as their phonological awareness “grows.”

However, in this post, I’m going to start with the most important skill (rather than the easiest skill). I’ll first discuss syllable segmentation and blending because syllables are such an important part of the Spanish language.

I’ll then touch on rhyming, initial phoneme matching, initial and final sound identification, and phoneme identification placement.¬†Practicing all of these skills may be helpful to young students who are developing emergent (early) literacy skills in Spanish.

Working with syllables

Because Spanish is a syllabic language, I devote a big chunk of my phonological awareness instruction to working with syllables. Below are some of the activities we do.

Syllable blending

I’ve found that syllable blending is the easiest “syllable skill” for kids to learn. To practice, the teacher says the syllables in a word (“ven-ta-na”) and the children have to say the complete word (“ventana”).

Whenever I have a minute here or there, I say the syllables in a word and have students figure out the “mystery” word. You can do this with students’ names or classroom objects to really get them excited.

When students need more practice with this skill, I have them practice in a small group setting. I give them game mats (like the ones shown below) and counters. I say the syllables of a word, and if they have the corresponding picture on their mat, they get to cover it with a counter. The first person to cover all of his or her circles is the winner!
This post has lots of ideas and free resources for teaching Spanish phonological awareness and phonemic awareness in Spanish!

If you’d like to try out one of these games, put your first name and email address in the box below. This game and all of the free materials in this post (along with Spanish phonics freebies) will be sent to you!

 Syllable segmentation

Syllable segmentation is breaking words up into their syllables (the opposite of syllable blending). For example, if the teacher says “elefante,” the students say “e-le-fan-te.” I love to incorporate movement into syllable segmentation! You can have kids clap, tap their hands, tap their feet, or move their hands as they break words up into their syllables. Watch the not-fancy video below to see one way I’ve learned to have kids practice syllable segmentation.

I try to squeeze in syllable segmentation whenever possible. When I taught bilingual Kindergarten, I always started with students’ first and last names. They love it when it’s their turn for the class to “break up” their name into syllables! Some of your kids may need a little extra support with this. Try using syllable puzzles like the one shown in the photo¬†below – have students put a puzzle together and then tap or move each piece as they say each syllable.

This post has lots of ideas and free resources for teaching Spanish phonological awareness and phonemic awareness in Spanish!

To download some of these puzzles for free, just put in your information in the boxes below! (If you already put in your info above for the syllable blending activity, you don’t need to put it in again.)

Blending phonemes to make syllables

Although Spanish is a syllabic language, I’ve found that students also need to be aware of the individual sounds that make up syllables (i.e. the sounds /m/ and /a/ in the syllable “ma”). This helps them tremendously as they learn to spell and read words.

Just like with syllable blending and segmenting, I squeeze in phoneme blending whenever I have a spare minute. For instance, I might say /p/ /e/ and students have to guess that the “mystery syllable” is “pe.”

About a year ago, I created a “blending sheet” to help my struggling readers practice blending phonemes into syllables. It has helped tremendously!

To use this sheet, I sit next to one student. I say two sounds in a syllable, touching one dot as I say each sound. The student then slides their finger across the arrow, blending the sounds together to make the syllable.

It goes like this:

Teacher: /m/ (touch), /i/ (touch)

Student: (slides finger across arrow) mi

This post has lots of ideas and free resources for teaching Spanish phonological awareness and phonemic awareness in Spanish!

Incorporating visuals (the symbols on the sheet), movement, and saying sounds aloud has been really effective with getting my students to blend phonemes.

I also make sure to explicitly tell them that this activity helps them read and write words. I’ll also pull the sheet out if we’re reading or writing and students need to blend two phonemes together to make a syllable.

The blending sheet is also included in your free download.

Breaking up syllables into their phonemes

In my opinion, the “hardest” syllable skill is breaking up syllables into their individual phonemes (i.e. when the teacher says “ru,” the child can say /r/ /u/).

This isn’t difficult for all students, but many of my struggling readers do have trouble with this skill. We practice orally on a daily basis, and we can also use the blending sheet pictured above.

When we practice this skill using the blending sheet, I’m the one who says the complete syllable while sliding my finger across the arrow. The student has to then break up the syllable into its individual sounds, touching each dot as he says each sound.

Touch lights are another fun tool for practicing breaking up syllables into their phonemes! Say a 2-sound syllable aloud, and the student has to say each sound individually, tapping on one light for each sound:
This post has lots of ideas and free resources for teaching Spanish phonological awareness and phonemic awareness in Spanish!I’ve found that this skill develops through time and practice. As students become better at breaking syllables up into sounds, they are better able to¬†write syllables and less likely to leave out sounds.

 Other Phonological Awareness Activities

Although I spend most of my phonological awareness instruction time on syllable-related activities, there are other skills that students can benefit from learning. Below, I list these skills and suggest ways to practice them.


Students can practice matching words that rhyme (easier) and generating rhyming words (harder). I love using songs to introduce the concept of rhyming!

First, we sing the song a couple of times (over a period of several days). Then, I show students the lyrics on my interactive white board (click HERE for a bunch of free Spanish song lyrics from my TpT store).

As we sing the song again, I point to the words. I model finding words that rhyme and pronouncing them together. Students quickly catch on and begin helping me find words that rhyme in the song, other songs, and in rhyming books that we read.

Using rhyming pictures or playing rhyming memory are other great ways to practice rhyming!

Initial phoneme matching

Students can practice finding pairs of pictures that “start the same” (i.e. “sol” and “sonrisa”). For example, you can have them play the Beginning Sounds Memory game from the free toolkit. To play in a small group, turn all of the pictures face-up and have students practice naming them. You can also have students say the first sound of each word. Then, turn the cards face-down and play Memory. A match is made when a student turns over two cards that start the same.
This post has lots of ideas and free resources for teaching Spanish phonological awareness and phonemic awareness in Spanish!

Initial and final sound identification

Learning to identify the first sound and last sound in a word are helpful skills for emergent readers. When they are able to do this orally, it helps them self-monitor when they apply this skill to print.

For example, if a child misreads the word “loro” as “p√°jaro,” they should notice that the word “p√°jaro” should start with the /p/ sound and attempt to self-correct the error. But if a child doesn’t have a solid awareness of how to “listen for” the first sound in the word, they’re not likely to recognize this type of mistake.

These skills can be practiced very simply (“Dime el primer/√ļltimo sonido en la palabra _______.”). Students who struggle can best be served by practice in a small group setting.

Identifying phoneme placement in word

When I recently read Gorman and Gillam’s article “Phonological Awareness in Spanish: A Tutorial for Speech‚ÄĒLanguage Pathologists,” I learned about a phonemic awareness skill¬†that is “new” to me: identifying phoneme placement in a word.

In one study, they found a significant correlation between students’ beginning reading skills and their ability to identify the position of a sound in the word.

An example of this type of task would be as follows:

Teacher: ¬†‚ÄúD√≥nde est√° la /a/ en u√Īa: al principio, en medio, o al final?‚ÄĚ

Student:  Al final.

Try using this simple sheet (included in the free download) to have students point to the place in a word where they hear a certain sound:

This post has lots of ideas and free resources for teaching Spanish phonological awareness and phonemic awareness in Spanish!

Additional notes about teaching phonological awareness

Although phonological awareness can have a big impact on student’s reading and writing, the great part is that you can help them develop it in just a few minutes per day! Keep activities fun and brief – and remember that you can use them as transitions or attention-getters in the classroom.

One other thing to keep in mind is that phonological awareness can develop through activities other than¬†those that are just focused on phonological awareness. For example, as students learn to stretch out words and “listen for their sounds” to write them, they are developing their phonological awareness skills.

When students struggle with phonological awareness or don’t really seem to be participating in whole group activities, try pulling them in a small group. Small group phonological awareness activities can be most effective for struggling readers.

You can also try having students¬†close their eyes when you have them “listen for” certain sounds or participate in phonological awareness activities. This helps them focus less on the visual stimuli around them and more on developing hearing and listening skills.


Do you have any additional Spanish phonological awareness activities to add? Please share in the comments below!

And don’t forget to sign up to receive all the phonological awareness freebies pictured in this post! If you haven’t signed up yet, you can get them by signing up here:

I’m currently working on a pack of small group Spanish phonological awareness activities, so I’ll let you know when those are ready. Also, tomorrow I will be posting about teaching phonics in Spanish!

As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions!


Gorman, B. K., & Gillam, R. B. (2003). Phonological Awareness in Spanish: A Tutorial for Speech‚ÄĒLanguage Pathologists.¬†Communication Disorders Quarterly,¬†25(1), 13-22.

Manrique, A. M. B., & Signorini, A. (1994).¬†Phonological¬†awareness, spelling and reading abilities in¬†Spanish-speaking children. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 64, 429‚Äď439.

Where To Find Books in Spanish For Primary Students

If you’re a bilingual teacher like me, you know just how difficult it is to find quality books written in Spanish! Since I’ve always taught the primary grades,¬†I feel like I see the same books over and over again. So where are all the Spanish books?!

The answer, unfortunately, is that there just aren’t a ton available. You’d think that there would be plenty of picture books in Spanish, given that 20,000 or more children’s books are published in the U.S. most years.

Even though a great number of¬†children’s books are published,¬†not many of those books are translated into Spanish. This is unfortunate, because there are so many Spanish-speaking children in bilingual and dual language programs across the U.S. (as well as English-speaking children who are learning Spanish).

Moreover, it’s¬†actually better¬†to have authentic literature that was written in Spanish first, rather than translations. Authentic literature is¬†even¬†harder to come by.

So where can you buy books in Spanish? I’ve done a lot of searching over the past few years, and here are some good options I’ve found:

Grab this list of great places to buy bilingual books / books in Spanish online!

  • Scholastic en espa√Īol: ¬†Picture books, leveled readers, and more!
  • Booksource:¬† Collections of books, including mentor texts for reading/writing workshop
  • Wilbooks:¬†¬†Books for beginning readers, grades Pre-K through 2nd (included guided reading sets)
  • Lectorum: ¬†LOTS of different books in Spanish
  • Creative Teaching Press (Learn to Read series – Spanish): ¬†Books for beginning readers; more will be added in the coming months¬†(some were translated by me!)

Amazon is also a good resource. I have an Amazon Prime membership and it’s totally worth it for the free 2-day shipping!

Do you have any sites to add to this list? Please comment below – I would love to add more links!

Make sure you don’t miss any of my bilingual resources or freebies by signing up here.

This Week In Intervention: Holiday Break Homework and Spanish Bingo

Happy winter break!!  I hope that you’re on break, at least – I know some schools are going a few days into next week, which can’t be fun.

This week was a little crazy – not that I’d expect anything else for the last week of school before break!  On Monday I was out for a district reading specialist training on the impact of oral language development on reading (I’ll blog more about that soon), and then much of the rest of the week was filled with giving assessments, trying to get students’ take home book bags ready (thank you, Reading A to Z!), getting coworkers’ gifts ready, and the usual holiday stuff!  One highlight from the week was playing Spanish letter sounds and syllables Bingo with my kiddos:

Click on the picture for the original post with the free Bingo card downloads (they are in Spanish).  

I totally forgot to take a picture of the bags I sent home with my kiddos.  Oops!  The first and second grade ones were nothing spectacular – just some Reading A to Z books and then a few of my escaleras de fluidez (fluency ladders) for some decoding and fluency practice.

I wasn’t 100% sure what I should send home with my Kindergarteners.  When I taught Kindergarten as a classroom teacher, many of my kids were reading by now, so I sent home little books that they were already familiar with.  I also sent home letter sound flashcards to practice, and some handwriting, too.  However, the Kindergarten students I work with are very low, so I couldn’t send home books, and I wasn’t sure how much the parents would be able to support them with letter sound flashcards.  So I ended up sending home just a two-page packet – the first page was a parent letter, and the second page was an alphabet chart that we use to practice a letter sounds chant everyday in intervention.  The letter basically asked them to take their children to the library and read to them, and to practice the letter sounds a few times each day.

Because I wanted to give parents some support with the letter sound aspect, I decided to make a YouTube video of me doing the chant.  Just for your amusement, you can see it if you click {here}.  It’s really nothing special (and probably a little silly), but it will give you a sense of how easy it was to make.  I gave a link and a QR code on the parent letter, and I also showed the kids the video during our last intervention group.  They were super excited at the idea of being able to watch the video and practice the chant at home!  It would be very easy to do something similar with English letter sounds, or to give instructions on a particular strategy you want your kids to use in math.  All I did was use my phone to take the video, and then uploaded it directly from my phone to YouTube.  My gmail account was already linked to YouTube.

Crossing my fingers that my kiddos will be practicing over break!  Especially my Kinders – we only have half-day Kindergarten at my school, so we have to squeeze in as much learning as possible.

I was also busy this week finishing up and giving out coworker gifts and treat bags.  Here’s a photo of some chocolate covered peanut butter Ritz sandwich treat bags:  

One of my teaching assistants thought that they were professionally made.  Ha!  Ha!  A professional chef I am not.  But they are super easy and turned out looking nice, considering all I did was melt chocolate in the microwave and dip chilled Ritz peanut butter cracker sandwiches in them.  I was also quite pleased with the cute bags from Target!

Well, that was my week – it was about as scattered as this blog post was. ūüôā  I hope you had a wonderful week!  Happy winter break (or almost winter break, depending on where you teach)!

This Week In Intervention: Spanish Reading Fluency Ladders and Bingo

Whew! ¬†This past week felt like it was¬†never going to end! ¬†In addition to trying to get things together for the holidays, ¬†I’ve been busy making some new materials for my students. ¬†I recently finished up a syllable fluency reading program¬†for Spanish reading fluency and started using it with my 2nd graders. ¬†They are loving it! ¬†To give some background, I have three second grade boys who were non-readers at the beginning of the school year. ¬†Even though Spanish is a language that has an extremely strong letter-sound correspondence (meaning it doesn’t have all the weird spelling nuances that English does), decoding is still extremely¬†challenging for these three boys. ¬†They do lots of reading and writing activities with me each day, but I found that they still really needed to increase their fluency with reading all kinds of Spanish syllables – open, closed, with and without blends, and inverse syllables. ¬†So I created this:

Spanish Fluency Ladders - Practice reading fluency , syllable by syllable!


This is a syllable and word reading program (in Spanish) that can be used to improve students’ decoding and fluency. ¬†Students practice reading and rereading syllable or word “ladders” that look like this:
Spanish Fluency Ladder with Open Syllables
The student starts reading at the bottom of the ladder and works her way up.  The ladders have patterns to help students see connections between syllables and words Рin the ladder above, one letter in the syllable changes each time the child moves up one rung on the ladder. 
Once the child has mastered the syllables or words on the ladder (and can meet a timed goal when reading it to a teacher or other adult), she can color in one icon on her mastery sheet (the icon corresponds to the picture at the top of the ladder).  Each mastery sheet has a theme, like dinosaurs: 
Spanish syllable reading mastery sheet


Once a child has completed all of the ladders in one level, she moves on to the next level.  Here are the skills included in each level:
Level A:  Open, 2-letter syllables (sílabas abiertas con 2 letras)
Level B:  2-syllable words with open syllables (palabras con 2 sílabas abiertas)
Level C:  3-syllable words with open syllables (palabras con 3 sílabas abiertas)
Level D:  Open syllables with blends (sílabas trabadas)
Level E:  2- and 3-syllable words with blends and open syllables (palabras con 2 o 3 sílabas trabadas y abiertas)
Level F:  Inverse and closed syllables (sílabas inversas y cerradas)
Level G:  2- and 3-syllable words with open, closed, and inverse syllables, with and without blends (palabras con 2 o 3 sílabas abiertas, cerradas e inversas y algunas sílabas trabadas) 
Included is a special certificate that you can give the student each time he/she completes a level.  I also will be giving my boys a little prize after they complete each level.
Spanish Fluency Ladders Certificate.001
These ladders make great homework assignments (a parent letter is included), intervention work, or small group work. ¬†They can also help you differentiate instruction, because students in your group or class can all work on different ladders at the same time. ¬†Before you begin using the program, there’s a quick little assessment you can give to each child. ¬†That assessment will help you determine what level you should start the child on. ¬†Students then work at their own pace through the levels. ¬†Eventually, they will get up to this level:
Spanish Syllable Reading Practice

The hardest level in the series will have them reading 2- and 3-syllable words with open syllables, closed syllables, and syllables with blends.  

So far my boys are really loving the challenge!  They like being able to see their progress on the mastery sheet.  

Next week, we will be playing some BINGO in small group!!  

Here are BINGO sheets for Spanish letter sounds (sonidos), open syllables (s√≠labas abiertas), syllables with blends (s√≠labas trabadas), and inverse/closed syllables (s√≠labas inversas y cerradas). ¬†There’s 8 of each, so if you use them with the whole group instead of a small group, expect multiple winners! ūüôā ¬†You can download them for free with or without a holiday theme. ¬†Click on the pictures to download the sets. ¬†Enjoy!!

For some extra fun, you can have them color the pictures!

Happy Teaching!

This Week in Intervention: Reading 2-Syllable Words in Spanish

Happy Saturday!! ¬†I am¬†feeling pretty good about the fact that we only have 2 more days before Thanksgiving break! ¬†Our district uses Monday and Tuesday for conferences, so I will probably be interpreting so much that I’ll forget how to speak English, but I am still really excited for our short week!

Speaking of conferences…before I get started sharing about our activities for the week, I want to share this awesome link with you:

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 10.26.20 AM

One of my classroom teacher friends at my building asked me if I had any tip sheets to help parents support their kids with reading.  I immediately thought of Colorín Colorado Рa reading site in English & Spanish for educators and families.  I went to the site and found these awesome reading tip sheets for parents!  They have different sheets for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, Kinders, firsties, 2nd graders, and 3rd graders Рand they are available in English, Spanish, and 11 other languages!   Wow!  This is definitely a great resource if you are looking for something to give out at conferences or send home over break.

Anyway, this week was another full, normal week for us in intervention, which I love! ¬†My first grade group is really coming along. ¬†We have been working on reading 2-syllable words in Spanish. ¬†But last week I noticed that although they were consistently reading the first part of a word when decoding, they weren’t always attending to the second part. ¬†For example, for “rosado,” they might say, “rosada” or “rojo,” because they looked at the first syllable, “ro,” but didn’t pay attention to the end of the word. ¬†So, for this week, I decided that I¬†wanted our focus to be reading all the way through a word by looking at the word ending.

I started off the week with a dice game that they really¬†enjoyed. ¬†One of my kids can be a bit mopey, but I heard him say, “I love this game!” which definitely made me smile.

To make the game, I used these dice templates that I purchased {here}.  I put word beginnings on one die, and word endings on the other.  When I chose the word endings and beginnings, I made sure that there were lots of different ways to make real words.  I also made a recording sheet for kids to write the words they rolled.

To play, you first roll the word beginning die, and read the syllable.  Then, you roll the word ending die and read the ending syllable.  Next, you put the two syllables together and read them.  You write down the word formed, and if a real word has been made, you circle the word on your sheet.  Players take turns doing this until the sheet is full or time is up, and then the player with the most circled words wins.  You can click on the picture below to download the game for free.

If you teach in English, I can see this being turned into a game for reading multisyllabic words, or a 3-die game to practice reading CVC words. ¬†You also might want to copy the die onto different colored sheets of paper – I just didn’t think ahead that far! ūüôā

After we played the game on Monday, I kept referring to it throughout the week as students read (“Do you remember how you had to look at the word beginning and¬†ending in the dice game? ¬†When you’re reading, you have to look at the word beginning and¬†ending, too.”) ¬†

I love anchor games/lessons like this, because the kids enjoy them and then I can refer back to them to reinforce my teaching point.

Have a great weekend!!

This Week in Intervention: Using A Reading Strategies Menu

This week I started doing my 2nd grade group a little¬†differently. ¬†My 2nd graders are reading at a mid-Kindergarten level, but they all have slightly different needs. ¬†They are also very easily distracted. ūüôā SO instead of trying to read with all 3 of them at once, I’ve set up mini-centers so that I can read with them individually.

Right now I’m using an iPod and an iPad to keep the kids who are not reading with me busy learning, and I’m hoping to create some more options for the mini-centers soon. ¬†Trying to see 3 of them individually in 30 minutes feels a little¬†rushed (we also do a few minutes together at the beginning and end of the lesson) but I hope it will pay off.

One of my second graders tends to get frustrated when he gets to a word and doesn’t know what it is. ¬†Can you blame him, though? ¬†This is his third year of¬†struggling in school. ¬†I’d be frustrated too! ¬†I’m trying to empower him to use strategies instead of sitting there and getting upset. ¬†So, I created this reading strategies menu to help him see (visually) that he has options:
Download this FREE strategy menu in Spanish or English!

When I was going over each part with him, I didn’t do it all in one day, and I covered up the others to help him focus on one strategy box at a time. ¬†When I want him to use a certain strategy, I just point to one of the boxes. ¬†This helps prevent me from talking too much and interrupting his thinking.

If you want to download it for free (in English or Spanish), click on one of the images below.

English Reading Strategy Menu.001 Spanish Reading Strategy Menu.001Happy teaching!